What Will We Do When Siri Picks Our Pocket?

5 minute read
| Particle Debris
Hal9000 eye

“I’m sorry, John, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

WIRED has published an interview with President Obama, to appear in the November issue. “Barack Obama, Neural Nets, Self-Driving Cars, and The Future of the World.” Right away, I thought about Apple’s Siri when I spotted a noteworthy comment by Mr. Obama:

The way I’ve been thinking about the regulatory structure as AI emerges is that, early in a technology, a thousand flowers should bloom. And the government should add a relatively light touch, investing heavily in research and making sure there’s a conversation between basic research and applied research. As technologies emerge and mature, then figuring out how they get incorporated into existing regulatory structures becomes a tougher problem, and the government needs to be involved a little bit more. Not always to force the new technology into the square peg that exists but to make sure the regulations reflect a broad base set of values. Otherwise, we may find that it’s disadvantaging certain people or certain groups.

That may be the key question of the 21st century. When is the right time to step in and put AI’s into the framework of human morality, oversight, and government regulations so that powerful corporations don’t use AIs to oppress or exploit other humans?

Today, one dominant meme is to let businesses flourish. It’s part of American economic strength. On the other hand, there is also a need to provide benign regulation that ensures businesses don’t run roughshod over citizens. This constant tension between the two camps is good because both free enterprise and sensible regulation both play a role in the health of the economy and its people.

A major problem here with AI is that a time might come when AI’s are able to learn and teach themselves faster than humans can manage them. As President Obama suggested, AI’s that aren’t properly constrained and regulated could be unleashed on unsuspecting citizens in an out of control avalanche.

If that sounds unrealistic, I refer you to this: “Artificial intelligence-powered malware is coming, and it’s going to be terrifying.

Today, many government leaders are having a tough time understanding and coping with the nuances of science, technology and climate. The government leaders of the future will face exponentially more dangerous problems and regulatory issues, and it’ll start with Artificial Intelligence entities.

Apple and Siri vs. the World

What role do we expect Apple to play here? Is that even on the roadmap for Siri? For example, Apple took a leadership position against the FBI last spring on personal privacy and encryption. How, in turn, will Apple deal with the competitive evolution of Siri?  Leave it to evolve weakly, and the competition will gobble it up.  Make Siri super bright, the ultimate AI, and it could get out of control. Should Apple advise the federal government on regulations that would  shackle its own research?

To deal with issues like this, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM have formed “The Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society,” It’s described here: “Tech Giants Team Up To Tackle The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence.” Good stuff.

As of this writing, Apple still hasn’t joined.

Next page: The Tech News Debris for the Week of October 10th. Apple + Intel = Excedrin headache.

11 Comments Add a comment

  1. CudaBoy

    short story “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” – is the AI story that keeps Elon awake at night. Very quick read you can find online-if you don’t get nightmares easily that is.

  2. Bregalad

    Intel has long had integrated graphics for low end hardware. As their technology improved they were able to push into higher and higher price ranges. With their Iris chips they were finally getting into the upper tiers of home and business PCs. The roadmap you’re referring to is proof that the marketplace has spoken. Most manufacturers use Intel graphics in machines where energy efficiency trumps performance, where all that’s needed is “good enough”. Intel has a huge advantage in that market because they can provide a single energy efficient chip that provides top notch CPU performance and good general purpose graphics.

    Apple may not have been the only company to ship “Pro” models without discrete GPUs, but they were definitely the only company to put Iris-specific acceleration into their software. That move has backfired and Apple needs to have a good backup plan.

    I think Apple’s long term plan is to abandon Intel like they dropped IBM and Motorola before that. They want to control the whole widget and there are clear advantages to having the same chip family powering all Apple products. It could make it much easier to develop software that runs on both Macs and iPads and I think customers would like that. The Apple A-series chips are rapidly catching up to Intel in performance too.

    But that’s a long term goal. Apple needs to do something right now to convince people that the Mac (whether x86 or ARM) has a future. I’ve been a Mac user for nearly 25 years, but I’m very discouraged with the direction the company has been going in the last 5. I’m clinging to a 2011 iMac, but my son has a Windows PC and my wife has an Android phone. The day we completely abandon Apple may be coming soon.

  3. NorthSaanichBC

    “What Will We Do When Siri Picks Our Pocket?”

    Answer: Invite her back home for a romantic evening (Siri, I think you already knew that it wasn’t a “gun” in my pocket 😉).

  4. Lee Dronick

    “We’ve survived the crisis of having the 3.5 mm headphone jack removed from the iPhone 7”

    We does not include me as I do not yet have an iPhone 7. Where I am suffering greatly is with iOS Music and that disaster of an app. I think that it was designed by someome who got fired for incompetence from Facebook.

  5. brilor

    At this point it’s more likely to be something other than Siri picking our collective pockets. See Walt Mossberg’s column for more. Siri is basic. Would like to be able to make queries like:

    “What time is XXXX on TV tonight?”
    “What channel is XXXX on?”
    “How much is XXXX on Amazon?”
    “Check for new emails.”
    “When was my last email from X?”
    “Text XXXX about [subject] in one hour.”
    “What’s the best way to go to work this morning.”

    or even better:

    “Order my usual pizza from X.”
    “Open X files and send them as a PDF to XX”
    “Back up my system to Time Machine and then put the computer to sleep.”
    “Retrieve [file name] from my last time Machine backup.”
    “Copy [folder name] to iCloud Drive

    Also Siri currently doesn’t learn from the context of the conversation:

    Me: I want to visit Liz’ house.
    Siri: There is no one named Lucy in your contacts.
    Me: Her full name in my contact is Lizzy Wright.
    Siri: I am sorry I don’t understand what you mean.

    Didn’t Apple’s original Siri team( acquired IIRC ) leave Apple and start a new project?

    Other AIs are flawed but Siri is not the most intelligent.

  6. aardman

    So Five of the biggest tech companies have formed “The Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society” to address the ethical issues surrounding AI.

    I don’t expect much from this partnership given that 3 of the 5 are headed, or co-headed, by people who I suspect to be sociopaths.

  7. vpndev

    I sure hope that Apple is doing a Mac rollout on the 25th before the delayed financial report on 27th because otherwise they’re going to be killed [figuratively].

    The continued reliance upon Intel has proven to be a millstone.

  8. Proto732

    What is stopping Apple from going back to optional discrete graphics chipsets from NVIDIA or AMD like they used to do in the Pro line?

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